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Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »
RS Components’ Free DesignSpark Tops 200,000 User Activations With Continuing Growth
January 23rd, 2017 by Jeff Rowe
Last month, RS Components (RS), the trading brand of Electrocomponents plc, a global distributor for electromechanical engineering components announced that user activations of DesignSpark Mechanical (DSM), the company’s free-for-download 3D modeling and design tool, had reached a cumulative total of 200,000. According to the company, the volume of total activations of the software continues to increase at a rate of between four and five percent per month.
Developed in conjunction with SpaceClaim, DesignSpark Mechanical is a key tool in the RS DesignSpark initiative for providing resources that enable engineers to rapidly develop prototypes in the product concept design stage. Originally launched in late 2013 with a second version offering new functionality introduced the following year, the software is also available with extended engineering options (DS Mechanical Exchange and DS Mechanical Drawing) that costs $995 for the pair.
“DesignSpark Mechanical is a powerful 3D solid modeling tool that has rapidly been accepted by professionals, students and the maker communities, who have found enormous utility in the tool, enabling them to quickly develop 3D prototypes and bring their concepts and products to market in a very fast time,” said Mike Brojak, Head of DesignSpark Customer Solutions at RS. “Meeting this milestone is another hallmark of success for our DesignSpark initiative, which empowers engineers and designers in the maker community and from the smallest start-up to large organizations.”
There is certainly no shortage of mechanical CAD tools available for mechanical designers, but, I was interested in this unique mechanical design product tailored for engineers whose primary role is electronics design, and secondary role is mechanical design for creating panels, enclosures, and machines. I was interested in experiencing how a mechanical design product would translate for electronics designers and conceptual design, so I checked it out.
DesignSpark Mechanical 3D Design Interface and Basic Part Design Overview
I found DesignSpark Mechanical to be a very capable mechanical design tool for non-specialists and was pleasantly surprised at its capabilities and potential.
DesignSpark Mechanical is built on SpaceClaim Engineer, 3D design software that offers a short learning curve along with a direct modeling approach that lets you directly pull and move geometry for design optimization.
Using DesignSpark Mechanical consists of the following three basic steps:
DesignSpark Mechanical has comprehensive 2D and 3D sketching capabilities, as well as the following basic tools for creating and editing 3D geometry:
With these basic 3D tools, I could conceptually model many types of electronic panels and enclosures.
Three Modeling Methods
With DesignSpark Mechanical there are three methods for modeling — from scratch, by selecting components from the DesignSpark library and using them as the basis for a design, or a combination of the two.
With the online library I was able to combine my test design with off-the-shelf electromechanical components (enclosures, relays, switches, etc.) from RS Components’ and Allied Electronics’ 3D library. I was able to select and drop in 3D part models with RS part numbers directly into my test design.
I also was able to import ECAD files from an EDA tool, DesignSpark PCB (RS Components’/Allied Electronics’ printed circuit board design tool), and create a mechanical design around the electrical design.
Design Tools for Electronics Designers
DesignSpark Mechanical has specialized functions and tools specifically for electronics designers – Measure, Dimension, Bill of Materials, and Order Components.
I used the Measure tool by selecting it and clicking on an object (edge or face) for measuring length, area, and perimeter. This was a useful tool for ensuring components or subassemblies would fit within an enclosure.
Selecting the Dimension tool and clicking on an edge or face previews a specific dimension. Clicking a second time, I created the dimension for display. The Dimension tool is useful for calling attention to critical dimensions for collaboration or production.
For design communication, it’s always a good idea to include a Bill of Materials (BOM) as part of a design. In DesignSpark Mechanical, BOMs are automatically populated for both internal and external components that comprise an assembly.
Finally, DesignSpark Mechanical reads in purchasing data from parts downloaded from the RS Components and Allied Electronics webpages and auto-populates a bill of materials (BOM). I clicked the BOM Quote button and the parts list in the current design populated a table in a pop-up browser. By clicking Order Components, I received a quote very quickly.
For all the functionality it provides for designing electronic products, DesignSpark Mechanical is available free of charge, which is always a good thing!
I have evaluated and used many software products over the years for designing mechanical and electromechanical products. Based on my experience, I found DesignSpark Mechanical to be an easy to use, yet capable tool for conceptual electromechanical design, especially by those who have limited or no experience with a mechanical design tool. The learning curve is short, the 3D component libraries are extensive, BOMs and quotes are easy to generate, and it’s free. When considering all of these benefits, there is a lot to like with DesignSpark Mechanical.
For More Information on DesignSpark Mechanical: www.designspark.com/mechanical
Editor’s Note: In just a little over two weeks from now (February 5-8, 2017), we’ll be in Los Angeles as a Media Sponsor for SOLIDWORKS World 2017 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. We’re in the process of booking video interviews for the conference, and if you’re interested in conducting a video interview, contact Sanjay Gangal at 408.221.0982 or email@example.com. When edited, the video interviews are 4-7 minutes in length and are a great way to promote you company and its products and services. We hope to see you there at Booth #129!